U.S. Marshals recovered 45 missing children and arrested 179 suspects in a human trafficking bust, in conjunction with the Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, in operation “Autumn Hope.”
"Across southern Ohio, 76 missing and exploited children cases were cleared, including 45 by physical recovery by the U.S. Marshal’s Service," the Ohio AG stated.
The victims were referred to social services, and multiple arrests were made, including a man who was holding two children in West Virginia.
Additionally, 20 children were located as authorities checked on their well-being.
At one recovery site, authorities reportedly recovered a 15-year-old girl from Cleveland whom they described as “high-risk.” The girl was linked to suspected human trafficking.
A loaded gun was found at another of the recovery sites, along with a 15-year-old boy, who was suspected of multiple shootings and a murder and had two warrants out for his arrest.
Sgt. Dana Hess, director of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, said in a statement, “These vulnerable members of our population usually slip through the cracks. This operation highlighted the vast number of potential victims and allowed law enforcement the opportunity to make contact and link them to services.”
Operation Autumn Hope held four priorities, according to the AG's office: “Rescuing victims of human trafficking and referring them to social services, recovering missing and exploited children, apprehending those seeking to have sex with a minor [and] arresting male johns seeking to buy sex.”
"Over the past five years, the USMS has recovered missing children in 75 percent of the cases it has received," according to the Marshals Service. "And of those recovered, 72 percent were recovered within 7 days. Since 2005, the USMS has recovered more than 2,000 missing children."